Examine Yourselves No. 2
(Editor's Note: The first article in this series appeared in the July 8, 1971 issue. There are installments in this series).
In this article, we wish to continue our consideration of Paul's admonition to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 13:5) to examine themselves relative to whether or not they were in the faith. We have pointed out, that to be in the faith, one must (1) believe what God has said because God said it and (2) be governed and guided by it. This is the basis of the examination and whether or not Jesus Christ is in us will be determined by what we believe and whether or not we are governed by it.
In 2 Thess. 2:11-14 we read, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Wherefore he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." In this passage, Paul draws a contrast between believing a lie and believing the truth. As we have pointed out, it is impossible to believe both at the same time. If one believes the truth (what God says about something), he must disbelieve anything and everything which is at variance with what God has said.
The existence of both truth and error in the realm of religion should be obvious to everyone. According to Mt. 7:15, Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, — ." And in 2 Pet. 2:1, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, — ." And again in 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
Our purpose in this article is not to point out the difference between truth and error upon every Bible subject. To do so would involve a treatise too lengthy for the design of this writing. But we will consider a few contrasts between truth and error upon a few controversial subjects.
The Subject Of Baptism
The subject of baptism has been one of the most controversial subjects among people professing the Christian religion, in this age of time. To properly study the subject, we will divide it into three parts: (1) The design of baptism, and (3) The act of baptism.
The Design Of Baptism
There has been much controversy upon the design or purpose of baptism. The question has been and is today, whether or not baptism is essential to salvation — is baptism essential or non-essential? It cannot be both essential and non-essential? Many people believe it to be essential while many believe it to be non-essential. Since baptism cannot be both essential and non-essential, one has to be true and the other false. Which ever one turns out to be true, to believe in that is to believe the truth on the subject. But to believe which ever one turns out to be false, is to believe a lie upon the subject.
Let us examine the subject of whether or not baptism is essential to salvation, in the light of what is set forth in God's word. We will start with two passages of scripture. Mk. 16:15,16, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Matt. 28:19, 20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Let us consider the scope of these two passages with reference to who baptism is applied to and the duration of time it would be applicable. According to the first passage, the gospel was to be preached to every creature. Of course those contemplated in the phrase, "every creature," would be limited to human creatures and further limited to those capable of understanding (believing) the preaching. But it would include every human creature capable of understanding the preaching — both Jew and Gentile. According to the second passage, the duration of time in which this preaching or teaching would be applicable to these creatures, was and is "unto the end of the world."
With these facts in mind, let us consider what is said in the first passage with reference to baptism and salvation. "He (any of these creatures to whom the gospel was preached) that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Where does this passage place salvation with reference to baptism? It would be foolish to argue that salvation precedes baptism in this passage. But, since salvation follows baptism in the passage, then baptism would be a condition of salvation. If baptism is not a condition of salvation in this passage, neither is faith a condition of salvation. If baptism is a condition of salvation, then baptism would of necessity be essential to salvation.
Some, who believe that baptism is non-essential to salvation, seek to escape the force of the positive statement, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," be arguing that, because the latter part of the verse does not read, "he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned," baptism is therefore not essential to salvation. Let us observe this argument in the light of the passage under consideration. There are two things discussed in this brief verse: salvation and damnation, and the conditions of each. (1) To be saved, one must believe and be baptized. (2) To be damned, one only needs to fail to do either. Since salvation is conditioned on both faith and baptism, to fail in either faith or baptism, would be to come short of salvation. And to come short of salvation, would result in damnation. Faith must precede baptism by the very nature of them. Faith is in Christ and his word. Since baptism is a command of Christ, if one did not believe Christ, there would be no reason for his being baptized.
We are aware of the fact that there are other passages which speak of faith in connection with salvation, which do not mention baptism. Does the fact that such passages do not mention baptism, invalidate the passages which do? Is there any conflict between them? One who would argue that there is, does not have the proper respect for the scriptures. What about a passage which speaks of baptism in connection with salvation, in which faith is not mentioned? Would such a passage invalidate those in which faith is mentioned? Certainly not. We know of just such a passage. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us — " 1 Pet. 3:21. This passage says that baptism saves us. It does not mention other conditions, but it certainly does not set aside other conditions mentioned elsewhere. Faith is essential to salvation and there are many passages which so teach. Baptism is essential to salvation and the passage we have just considered, teaches it. Mark 16:16 teaches that both faith and baptism are essential to salvation.
Let us now consider the forgiveness of sins in connection with baptism. Surely, no one is willing to argue that there is a difference between salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Our sins or state of sinfulness, is what we are saved from. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Mt. 1:21. Let us start with Acts 2:37,38. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." We are calling attention to verse 37 in connection with verse 38 because of the word "shall" in verse 37. The question was asked, "what shall we do?" Verse 38 contains the answer to that question. The statement, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" was in answer to the question, "what shall we do?" If you find yourself in a predicament, and you ask "what shall I do?" and the person you ask tells you what to do, would you not understand that whatever they tell you to do to be necessary or essential? At least you would if you meant "shall" in your question. But suppose you should ask the question under the suggested circumstances and when the answer was given, would you argue with any of the answer in which you are told what you shall do? If you have any faith in the truth of the answer you will not. The answer to the question, "repent and be baptized," shows that to repent and be baptized is what we shall do.
Now let us consider the answer within itself. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Remission of sins, according to this passage, is what repentance and baptism is for. Repentance and baptism is the action (do) and remission of sins is the design, purpose, object or result. We can prove that the word translated "for," in Acts 2:38, in the Authorized Version, means "unto, in order to," but the context of the passage proves that this is so.
Let us call attention to the harmony of other passages we have considered, in connection with this one. If baptism is non-essential in this passage, then other passages we have discussed are invalid. The truth of the matter is that all scriptures are valid and harmonious. As a body, they teach that faith, repentance and baptism are all conditions of salvation or the forgiveness of sins.
Examine yourselves. What do you believe? To believe that baptism is essential to salvation, is to believe the truth about the design of baptism. To believe that baptism is non-essential to salvation, regardless of how sincere you may be in your belief, is to believe a lie about the design of baptism.